Russian-US Crew Launches on Fast Track to the Space Station

Katie Ramirez
December 28, 2020

The Pirs Unit was first added to the space station in 2001.

Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian Federation to ferry its astronauts to the space station, an orbiting laboratory 250 miles above Earth that has housed worldwide crews of astronauts continuously for almost 20 years. He is a retired captain in the U.S. Navy, with more than 7,800 flight hours and 663 carrier landings in tactical jet aircraft.

Almost nine minutes after a successful launch at 1:45 a.m. EDT of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos safely reached orbit.

The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft docked at the ISS.

No Russian cosmonauts have been assigned to any commercial missions to date.

A Roscosmos spokesperson told NBC News there were no definite plans for any Russian to join the USA venture, adding that this question was inexorably linked to future US rides on Soyuz. In an emailed statement sent to Forbes, NASA put it this way: "As the USA commercial crew capability becomes operational, astronauts and cosmonauts should resume flying together on our respective spacecraft, consistent with past practice".

"It really will depend on having the US crew vehicles launching at some cadance", he said.

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Butch has been in space twice before: once in 2009, when he served as the pilot of space shuttle Atlantis on STS-129 and delivered 14 tons of spare parts to the International Space Station, and once in 2014, when he was ferried to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and remained there for 167 days. The two sides regularly praised each other and spoke highly of their relationship, but the partnership was the product of a different era in US-Russian relations.

At a news conference before the inauguration, Ms Rubin said Kron spent several weeks at the Star City training facility outside Moscow and then at Baiknur to make sure they did not get the virus.

When NASA retired the USA space shuttle program in 2011, it was left entirely dependent on purchasing rides from Russian Federation - a transaction that has subsidized Russia's launch efforts for a decade.

There were efforts made by government officials on both sides at this time to politicize the relationship and use it to somehow punish the other. On the Russian side, the then-Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin threatened to cut NASA off from rides to ISS in response to USA sanctions against him and Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

These comments prompted a greater sense of urgency in US efforts to field new spacecraft capable of delivering USA astronauts to ISS.

Mission 64, led by Ryzhikov, will complement three people until the launch of SpaceX's Crew-1 mission with four astronauts.

"It will really depend on whether the U.S. pilots start launching some vehicles", he said. "It would be a shame if this, our last area of productive cooperation, was effectively abandoned". This trip took half the time of regular Low Earth Orbit trips to the ISS, and everything went according to plan. During briefings held late last month, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said the launch represents "a critical milestone in the development of our ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil - now sustainably".

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